BW Book Club Poll

(Caidyn)

Something that Chantel and I have discussed is what the hell are we going to do in 2018. We love being able to read a book together each month and coming up with some sort of review for it. It’s fun and keeps us involved in books jointly rather than you guys getting a fun tag that we take part in.

So, we thought that it would be fun if you guys came up with books that you’d like us to read together in 2018. If we get enough recs, then we’ll be able to do this for the whole year. Plus, it’d really be fun to involve all of you in what we read since, right now, we choose our own books month by month.

The way this works is that we’d like you to put in some books you would like to see us read. In the survey, I’ve provided a link so you guys can see what we’ve read for 2017. There is a “limit” for how many books we’d like you to suggest, but don’t let that stop you. If you can only think of one book you’d like us to read, put that in. If you think of more than five, please put them in.

There is also a short poll that we’d like you to do about what you like about the blog and what you might like to see more of.

All in all, it’s only three questions. I know that we’d both love it if you guys filled it out so we can read what you’d like us to and so we can get a little bit of feedback. This is going to run from now through around December 20th. Everything’s anonymous so you can say what you want and you don’t have to say who you are unless you want to.

Click here to take it and thank you again for everyone who does!

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The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

The House on Foster Hill

(Caidyn)

1/5 – DNF at 41%

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book! It, in no way, influenced my opinions. I basically requested this book because of the title, description, and cover. They interested me, really.

The story in this is dual told from different periods. Ivy is Kaine’s great-great grandmother (give or take a great). It’s a mystery of sorts where they’re trying to figure out an eerily similar problem from their respective time periods. Ivy is dealing with a murdered girl who recently had a baby, the baby nowhere to be found. Kaine’s husband was possibly murdered and she has a stalker, a stalker that followed her to her new home.

I told you it sounded interesting. However, it was just dull.

There was absolutely no tension to be seen, even if it was described as a mystery. The focus just wasn’t on the mystery. It was a catalyst for the women to find new love, with the mystery hovering in the background with some decisions to be made. However, it just really felt like romance and things were just being figured out. I was 40% into it and there were no suspects in either story. It left me wondering what point the mystery held besides to get them close to men who could heal the women’s dark pasts.

Definitely not one for me.

The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

The Twilight Pariah

(Caidyn)

2/5

I got this for my September PageHabit box and, well, wasn’t too excited about it. I trust an author who is a reviewer first and foremost. He said it wasn’t good. Sadly, I have to agree with him. I started this on Halloween because I wanted a short and spooky read. However, it reminded me of Ghost Adventures.

I hate watch that show. It’s stupid. The people in it are absolute idiots who have no credibility with what they do. It’s a goddamned joke where nothing happens but they make a huge deal out of any little thing that they might find. Basically. it’s a lot like this book.

The barebones plot is that three friends go to an abandoned house while drunk and decide to be archeologists and dig it up. Logical, right? So, you know, casual breaking and entering, along with digging things up. But, that’s about all that happens in the book. Some weird shit goes on and some really weird plot that’s held by a tenuous thread. It was just absolutely boring.

The reviews by authors lie. It’s nothing like Stephen King or Indiana Jones. I was laughing but from the book’s actual humor and unintended humor. I wasn’t scared one bit. All of this book felt immature, not as if a seasoned author crafted it.

Basically, I’d avoid it if you want something freaky but if you want a book where nothing happens, go for it.

Richard III by William Shakespeare

Chantel’s Rating – 3 / 5
Caidyn’s Rating – 5 / 5

This month for the BW Book Club, Caidyn assigned me to read King Richard III or as I have dubbed him, King Dicky. Dicky for short. I won’t lie and say I didn’t struggle with this play because I did. I fully believe Shakespeare is meant to be performed, not read, that said I’m not knocking off stars because of the format. This whole play revolves around Dicky’s assent to the throne and the horrible things he does in order to become King. Shakespeare is great at writing morally gray or in this case amoral characters. There is Iago in Othello, Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth, Prospero in The Tempest, and I’m sure there are plenty of others I didn’t mention because I haven’t read every play by Shakespeare. Richard is devious, manipulative, and a bit funny. There was a lot of asides to the audience. Plus the actor reading his part in the audiobook did a great job. I am looking forward to watching Benedict Cumberbatch portray him in The Hollow Crown.

Benedict Cumberbatch wink

It’s been too long since I used this gif.

 

However, this play is one in a series of plays. I’m not sure of the exact order, I’m sure Caidyn will fill me in, but the play begins in the aftermath of a murder. I didn’t realize right away that things had happened with these characters in a previous play. It left me with no context of what was going on. By the end of Act One, I think I understood, but I wish I had the opportunity to read the previous plays first. Just so I could’ve understood things better.

I think a combination of a struggle to grasp plot points and the fact that I don’t like reading about a villain who gets his way more often than not, that caused me to not enjoy the play as much as I would’ve liked. Dicky was the best part of the play and he was my favorite part, but I felt like he deserved a bigger downfall. I think watching The Hollow Crown and re-reading this play at some point might one day bring my rating higher, but for now, I think it was a solid three. It was good but didn’t move me.

Well, Chantel sort of asked me for history, so here goes. Sparknotes also has a context section for this play. This set play is a part of Shakespeare’s minor quartet (Henry VI Part 1-3 and this one). However, the story really starts with his major quartet: Richard II, Henry IV Part 1 and 2, and Henry V. It even starts further back, with Edward III. Now, E3 (I love my abbreviations) had a lot of sons. One son was Edward, the Black Prince. He died with a young son, Richard, who became Richard II (R2). R2 was, perhaps, not the best king because of his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, deposed him and became Henry IV (H4). His son, Henry V, died soon after having an heir, so England was ruled by a boy king, Henry VI (H6). These are the Lancasters or the red roses. Then, there was a rebellion from the heirs of E3’s fifth son, the Yorks. They took the throne, starting with Edward IV (E4) and then dear Dicky.

However, this play also introduces the Tudor lineage. H6’s mom got married to Owen Tudor, a Welsh man. They had three children together, but only one is super important. Edmund Tudor married an illegitimate line of E3’s son, Margaret Beaufort. Then, they had Henry Tudor, cousin to H6. After Dicky got the throne and he killed all contenders, he only had Henry left. Henry beat him at the Battle of Bosworth and took the throne as Henry VII, marrying E4’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, to marry the two feuding lines.
So, that’s the history in a nutshell. And what this play is. It culminates to historical propaganda to show why the Tudors are rightful rulers, even though they had been on the throne for a century by the time this was written.

That is really interesting actually. Did he write the quartets to please Queen Elizabeth I? I believe she was a big fan of his works, were they written with her in mind despite her, a Tudor, being on the throne?

I researched this real fast (thanks, Google) to see what has already been written about this. I’m using this post and also Wiki for some info. Turns out that this focuses on a character (and real person) I didn’t mention. H7’s father, Edmund, died before he was born. I’m resisting a tangent here, but his mother, Margaret Beaufort, remarried a few times. One man was Thomas Stanley, who is a part of this play. His son (H7’s stepbrother) was being held by Dicky to ensure Stanley’s help. But, he didn’t and after Dicky was killed, he crowned H7… in the play. Really, it was his younger brother, William Stanley, who crowned H7 on the battlefield.

Ferdinando Stanley, a direct heir of Thomas Stanley, was Shakespeare’s patron. Not only that, but he was also a relative of Henry VIII through Henry’s sister’s marriage to Charles Brandon. (Yes, Chantel, the guy you loved in The Tudors.)

 

Charles Brandon Tudors.gif

Because he was so dreamy.

  

So, the short answer is yes. Yes, he had to write these with her in mind, but more importantly were his direct patrons who might be pissed about him writing something that might praise Dicky.

That blog post was very interesting and really it makes sense to me. Perhaps he didn’t have E1 completely in mind when writing the play, but the people who had the most to gain from twisting the story. It reminds me of how films get made. You have a studio which you pitch your script to, but once they finance the movie, they can make creative decisions that you might not be okay with. There are many people who are picking at your story to have it fit their agendas. Things haven’t changed much in that sense. I mean, just look at Blade Runner. There are multiple cuts of that film because of Ridley Scott fighting to have the film HE wanted to make and the studio making the decisions without him. Sorry (not sorry), film tangent.

I’ve learned to expect your film tangents, but you are correct. It’s a system of patronage. Now, Ridley Scott is seen as a genius and he can do whatever the fuck he wants with a story to tell it in his way. It’s interesting, all of it. And I think it does make sense for the play Elizabeth I wasn’t the one in Shakespeare’s mind, but she was on the mind of his patron. What’s the best way to get in good favor with a very, very picky queen (as E1 was known to be with her favorites)? Talk about her grandfather pioneered over the devil incarnate. Shakespeare also wrote a play called Henry VIII and only took place when Anne Boleyn was queen. Didn’t go further, but it eulogized her from what I remember.

Exactly, but before he could release the final cut of Blade Runner, the cut he personally approved of as the definitive one, he had to go along with whatever the studio wanted. That’s something that hasn’t changed and likely won’t. The people with the money are the ones who ultimately have control. No matter what it is. I can only imagine how it feels to have someone look at your creation and tell you to change many parts of it. I know that happens in film, tv, and even books. It would bug the hell out of me. I’m not surprised that Shakespeare had to cater to his audience, which in the case of dear Dicky was his patrons and the queen. I had heard in my class that when James took the throne, he didn’t like long plays which is why his later plays are shorter. That’s just something my teacher said in class, but plays like Macbeth and The Tempest are shorter than say, Hamlet. But I think everything is shorter than Hamlet. I always think about the four-hour long movie Kenneth Branagh made.

I don’t really know things like that, honestly. I’m not too interested in the Stuart reign, funny enough, but I should look more into it. Shakespeare definitely had to cater to his audience since he was dependent on them. I just love this play, even if it is horrific propaganda against a guy who might not be terrible. Yes, his brother got slandered. Yes, his nephews disappeared and were never found again. But, it could have been other people making the plots. I don’t quite believe that since Dicky ended up on top, but I also don’t think he was a demon.

I’m not here to provide facts, just witty commentary. I have no clue if that’s true, but I just thought it was interesting. No matter who was on the throne, Shakespeare had to cater to them somehow in some ways because you are right that he was dependant on them. So, basically, you are saying Dicky is just a modern biopic. Not completely accurate, but hella entertaining.

I’m not a film nerd like you so I don’t really know what biopics are, but sure. This is like some reality TV for me. Just stuff that’s insane and you can’t believe happened. It’s true historically, but Shakespeare took liberties to portray a very one-sided view of Dicky.

A biopic is a movie that’s a biography of someone’s life. It’s either “based on a true story” or based on a book written about the subject. Some examples are The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, The King’s Speech and Elizabeth. I could go on.

Oh, okay. Gotcha. Then, this is a biopic. It’s based on it but definitely has an angle and a moral point you ought to take from it. Aka, that Dicky is evil and the devil and deserved what he got.

Looks like we are both dropping knowledge here. I could say a biopic that takes liberties in terms of Dicky, but let’s be honest, they all take liberties. They are creating a product meant for entertainment, someone’s life is usually not consistently entertaining unless they are Forrest Gump. Who is a fictional character. But yes, Dicky is awful and he got what he deserved. A moral that I feel is common in Shakespeare.

Uhm, excuse you, but Forrest Gump was a very real person who met and did all of those things. Very, very real. Shakespeare does make great villains, but their ultimate drive seems to usually be getting themselves ahead. Iago is like that. Prospero, although he’s not supposed to be a villain, is a lot like one. Don John in Much Ado About Nothing. The list could go on and on.

Oh, my apologies, I’m certain that the “real” Forrest Gump worked for NASA as an astronaut too. That was in the book, not the movie. Also, you totally forgot about the Macbeths. They both are haunted by their guilt of what they did and it is ultimately their downfall.

That’s true, the Macbeths are different, but it’s also a little different since Macbeth wasn’t inherently evil like Dicky or Iago. Lady Macbeth is also different since she’s a woman and he’s playing on a woman usurping her “feminine” role in life and how she suddenly came back to it with extreme guilt for “being” a man.

Yes, they actually feel guilty for doing what they did, unlike Dicky or Iago. That’s true. I just lumped them in because they had their own separate downfalls as a result of them wanting to rise to power. But there is a lot more nuance to the Macbeths, which is what makes the play so great. After one reading of Dicky, I have to say that Macbeth is far superior as a play, but that’s just me.

I think what it comes down to is that fate and destiny play a defining role. Macbeth, while not inherently evil like Dicky, was destined to do this terrible thing. Dicky was destined from birth to be evil forever. I like Macbeth and it’s my favorite of his tragedies, but I like this one just a bit better because of the richness of analysis. Macbeth is also a history, in a way, but different. This one takes a bit more work because it relies on you knowing the ins and out of history.

And for me, it required so much thinking that my brain hurt. I prefer easy reading.

I’m sorry I made your head hurt this month.

First Lines Friday

The first Friday of November! Which means only one thing in Chantel’s world: PEPPERMINT MOCHAS! How fantastic? The countdown has started for us Americans until Thanksgiving, and Caidyn knows that Chantel’s super excited about it since she loves any holiday that features food.

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Chantel will be in purple.
Caidyn will be in blue.


She picked me up at sunset in that ancient lime green Ford Galaxie she’d rebuilt and painted two summers earlier when she was into cars. It came around the corner like it’d busted out of an old movie. She sat there behind the wheel, leaning her elbow on the door frame. There was a lit cigarette between her lips. She wore a white men’s T-shirt and her hair was pinned up, but not with any accuracy. Every time I’d seen her since we’d left high school her glasses were a different color. This pair had pink lenses and red circular frames.

“Get in, ya mope,” she said.

“What’s up, Maggie?”

As I slid into the front seat, she leaned over and kissed me. I gave her a hug. When I’d turned to her, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there were two twelve packs of beer on the backseat.


Not exactly a thrilling start to a book, but it sets some sort of stage for the book. Kind of. Okay, not really. 

The book is:

THE TWILIGHT PARIAH BY JEFFERY FORD

The Twilight Pariah

I got this book through my September box at PageHabit. I wrote in my initial part that I wasn’t too excited for this book since someone I trust who reads a lot of horror said that this wasn’t too great. As of right now, I’m actually, like, over halfway into the book and, let me tell you, it’s not impressing me all that much.


The war with Rome begins not with a clang of swords but with the lick of a dagger drawn from an assassin’s cloak.


Boy, that was a long one, wasn’t it? I didn’t continue on because I think this line stands out on its own just fine. 

This book was one that Caidyn recommended to me, and in my rush to finish the Shakespeare plays at the end of October, I’ve sadly been neglecting it. Now, I just have to divide my time between three novels and I have one that I plan on reading soon that I’m super excited about. 

This is also a non-fiction book and if you know me at all, you know I’m not good with non-fiction, but this book is very interesting so far. 

The choice is: 

Zealot by Reza Aslan

Aslan sketch_10.indd

This is an unusual book for me to read. One, because it’s non-fiction and two because it’s about Jesus. This book portrays Jesus as a historical figure rather than a biblical one and also gives the history of the time he lived in. I find that pretty interesting despite my aversion to anything religious. I mean, it’s okay to broaden my horizons sometimes. Sometimes. It’s nice to see you branching out. Seriously. When we first met, she was super against anything religious and I’m sure we argued a few times about things, with her taking an anti-religion stance while I took the pro-religion stance to point out the good things. I plan on getting her to read more in the future. Almost two years of knowing each other and I’ve finally gotten one book in. The first quote stood out to me because more than anything, I find Aslan to be a compelling storyteller and that first line could’ve been from an exciting fictional novel. There is plenty more of that in this book and I look forward to reading/listening to more of it. 

 

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved

(Caidyn)

4/5

The first time I read this book, it was for AP Literature in my senior year of high school. So, like, four years ago now. It was the hardest book we read, emotionally and literature wise, yet also the most satisfying. Now, I’m going to call it beautiful. Because it is a beautiful book on so many levels. Yet, I’m going to have to describe it and everyone’s going to be horrified by me.

In an easy summary, this book is about the inhabitants of a house haunted by a vengeful murdered baby. Then, things start coming back. Past and present merge in a beautiful story of memory as the women come together. You can’t escape your memories, but remembering is dangerous.

Sethe is a woman who fought for her life. She was a slave who had something horrible happen to her, then ran away, sending her children ahead of her, pregnant with one after a terrible beating, and then left her husband behind to never see him again. Then, after getting to freedom, they come back and she commits a crime that will forever mark her as apart and other.

It’s a very sad book. I remember the first time I read this, how much I hurt and felt and was horrified by the things in it. Yet, it’s such a beautiful story that I was compelled to finish it and to see what the end was. It’s also an extremely hard book to understand because of how artfully Morrison weaves the narratives together and blends past with the present. It’s definitely a book I’d suggest to anyone and everyone.

Deadly Cure by Lawrence Goldstone

Deadly Cure

(Caidyn)

2/5 – DNF at 56%

Thanks to Netgalley for an advanced copy! This did not effect my opinions.

The basic plot to this book is that it’s a big mystery based on the deaths of children. This is set in, I’d say, the late 1800s to early 1900s back in the time when patent medicine was about. Medicine wasn’t regulated back then. You could put anything in it and pass it off as medication. We find it hilarious and horrifying hearing about heroin or cocaine being in medication to actually help people, but this was the time. And, someone’s running experiments on kids.

I found it interesting and I liked, for the most part, the main character trying to solve this mystery, Dr. Noah Whitestone. He was personable and a nice guy. Then, I got distracted when they obviously were trying to toss in a romance… all while he’s grieving a dead wife and has a fiance.

So, it got ruined for me at about 60% when it threw in a pointless sex scene between Noah and this third woman. (And, trust me, there are no other female characters than his love interests.) So, he cheated on his fiance. I felt as if I was supposed to be cool with it. And it was also super rapey since Noah repeatedly said no, but it was ignored and the sex happened.

Good story, then it just got super ruined for me.

October Wrap-Up/Book Haul and November Planning

October has come and gone. The rest of the year is going to fly by and soon it will be 2018. It is terrifying how fast time flies. Anyway, Chantel is excited to stuff her face on Thanksgiving.

This month for the book club, we assigned each other our favorite Shakespeare play that isn’t Macbeth. We both love Macbeth, but we wanted to assign each other two different plays. Caidyn (and Chantel) read The Tempest and Chantel read Richard III. Our reviews should be up by now, or if they aren’t, keep an eye out. In November, for the BW Book Club, we will be reading The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Also, not book related but we binged both seasons of Stranger Things and it was excellent. Hopper is bae.

Hopper bae.gif

We spent a lot of time watching this.

Chantel will be in purple. 

Caidyn will be in blue. 


I AM GOING FIRST. MWAHAHAHAHAHA! Take that! Yeah, yeah. That’s because I have to read a book still and write two reviews. No need to get salty. Yas Kween.

So, in October, I read a LOT. Not only did I make up for the fact that I read diddly squat in September, but I read more than I have in any other month since we started this blog…or ever. I participated in my first readathon which was the GetGraphic readathon, which was a readathon for graphic novels. All of the graphic novels I read featured queer characters and/or dealt with queer themes. In total, I read 10 books. I will break them down by rating and link to my reviews of each except the readathon wrap up which is linked here

5 Stars: 

  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire – Holy shit you guys, this book was fantastic. I was so pleased with this book that I am eagerly waiting for the release of Beneath the Sugar Sky
  • Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash (*4.5) – This was a great start to the GetGraphic readathon. I flew through this graphic novel about summer camp and first loves, it really took me back. 

4 Stars: 

  • Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee – I thought this book was totally adorable. There are some great superhero themed books with queer main characters. It’s the only reason I’m reading superhero books because it’s not my genre. If you haven’t read this, go check it out, it’s got an adorable f/f romance and is a lot of fun. 
  • The Infinite Loop by Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier (Illustrator) – This graphic novel was just a bunch of fun and even with the slightly confusing sci-fi elements, I still enjoyed it. 
  • Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill – This was a short graphic novel I read before the readathon. It was about 50 pages and was about two young princesses that subvert typical fairy tale tropes. TAKE NOTES, DISNEY!

3 Stars: 

  • The Wicked + The Divine, Vol 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrations), Matt Wilson (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (*3.5) – This is a huge graphic novel series about gods that live on Earth that I’m just getting around to (like Saga) and this first volume was intriguing and I will keep reading just based on this first volume. 
  • Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (*3.5) – This graphic novel ultimately disappointed me. I thought the portrayal of depression was well done, but in the end, I was left wanting more. 
  • The Spire by Simon Spurrier, Jeff Stokely (Illustrations), Andre May (Colorist) – This graphic novel was bizarre and a bit hard to follow, but in the end, I enjoyed that it featured a queer main character with an interesting twist at the end. 
  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare – Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy this as much as I did when I first read it. There were some gorgeous lines. However, I wasn’t a fan of the different plots and wasn’t invested in any except Prospero’s story. 
  • King Richard III by William Shakespeare – I thought King Dicky himself was compelling, but this is a play that will take multiple reads for me to fully grasp. 

Book Haul

In addition to participating in the readathon early this month, that same weekend I volunteered and shopped at a huge book sale. There I bought several books and outside of that I bought a few books and received one directly from the author. 

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan, Every Day by David Levithan, and Ash by Melinda Lo

img_1391

I’m lumping the three of these together because I got them at the book sale and they all have LGBTQIA+ themes. I’ve read Empress of the World and Every Day, and I’ve wanted to read Ash for a long time now. 

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

This book is gorgeous, even without the dust jacket. I don’t know anything about this book, and if I was going to read a book purely based on looks it would be this one. 

Modern Romance by Aziz Anzari, Eric Klinenberg

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I listened to this audiobook earlier in the year (or maybe last year) before we started the blog, and I absolutely loved it. Aziz has such a great narrating voice and the book read like a podcast. I really enjoyed this book and now I have a physical copy to add to my collection because I’d like to pick it up again at some point. 

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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I’ve never read an Agatha Christie book before. *gasp* SHOCKER, I know. I don’t like mystery, but if I am going to dive into mystery novels (ones without Thomas Lynch that is) I might as well start with the Kween of Mystery. 

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Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Richard III by William Shakespeare, and The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Here are the three new editions of Hamlet, The Tempest, and Richard III that I bought this month. Not that I needed them, as I have two complete collections, but I couldn’t resist Hamlet and Richard III which were TWO DOLLARS at the book sale. I was in love with the cover of The Tempest so when I saw it at Barnes & Noble, I picked it up. 

Dracula by Bram Stoker

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Speaking of things I found at Barnes & Noble I couldn’t resist (seriously though, I made two separate trips there this month and it’s not good for my wallet), I got this leather bound version of Dracula. Though it has a scratch on the cover (oops) it’s still one of the most gorgeous books I own. 

Idyll Threats by Stephanie Gayle and Idyll Fears by Stephanie Gayleimg_1406

I’m lumping these together because they are by the same author in the same book series. Idyll Threats is the first novel in the Thomas Lynch series and Idyll Fears is the second which came out in September. 

Now, onto story time. Near the beginning of the month, I got Idyll Fears from the library and I’m stoked to start reading it because I’ve been waiting for the second book for about a year now. Maybe longer. So, I include the first lines of Idyll Fears in First Lines Friday, and to my surprise, Stephanie Gayle reached out to me. She offered to send me a free copy of the book and as you can see, she signed it. This is by far the coolest thing that’s happened to me in a long time and I’m incredibly grateful to her for sending me the book. I’ve now gone back to re-read Idyll Threats first because I wanted to refresh my memory. Or you know, it’s just a shameless attempt to read more about Thomas Lynch. 

It was actually super cool since we have a joint email for this account, so I watched the whole thing unfold. Like, I’m pretty sure that I texted Chantel in all caps about how she needed to look at the email right at that second and I didn’t care what she was doing. Super cool to see. I mean, I get emails or messages from authors requesting me to read ARCs, but never an author who wanted to send me a signed book just because I gushed about it.

As I talked about last month, I’m not going off of a TBR anymore and just reading whatever I wish. The only exception is whatever book Caidyn and I choose for the BW Book Club, but I am so far enjoying just picking up any book I want. My only issue right now is I’m in the middle of three different books. Two of them are audiobooks, which doesn’t make things any easier. I hope to finish them all before the end of November just so my Currently Reading shelf isn’t so clogged up. 


Okay, here I am. Doing this.

Like usual, I read a lot, so I’m actually going to break it up like Chantel did since that’s really succinct and easy for you guys.

5 stars:

4 stars:

3 stars:

2 stars:

As for books I’m going to read, I do have a list. Because I get ARCs and requests. Other than the three listed below, I’m going to read what I feel like and/or what library books I get!

Okay, now my book haul!

For one, I got myself the newest illustrated edition of Harry Potter! It’s beautiful and the colors are just amazing with it. Which is absolutely gorgeous and I’m totally jealous of.

Next, I bought a couple new copies of books that I love, Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities.

 

I also bought a copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. My excuse is using it for a project, but, really, I wanted to own it and that was enough of a justification for me.

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And, then I bought a ton of random books.

I suppose that I should go through them, though. The top book is from the one Twitter user that I actually pay attention to, and it’s a satirical Henry VIII and he published a “self-help” book. The one next to it is by an author I read and used in a paper about Katherine Howard, but he wrote about various English queens from 1308-1485 in this book. Next, is a book on Napoleon’s first wife. The next is on a topic called the Dreyfus Affair that showcased French anti-Semitism. The next book sounds hilarious since it’s about the failing of modern men. The last book is all about medieval warfare, so right up my alley.

 

 

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Caidyn’s Rating – 3/5

Chantel’s Rating – 3/5

For me, The Tempest is a play that’s just super odd. It’s not my favorite play by him, but I do like it. It strikes a melancholy tone, a feeling of finality, throughout the piece that I simply do not understand since the play is rather light compared to his others. It’s technically classified as one of his comedies, something I agree with since it has comedic elements throughout it, such as the trio of Caliban, Stephano, and Trinculo. That story had me laughing this time. However, it’s also one of Shakespeare’s “late romances”. That’s another classification I agree with when you take a look at how deep Ferdinand and Miranda’s romance lies with the plot Prospero creates to get his dukedom back and more.

Yet, I also could call it a tragedy. Sure, no one dies in the end and everyone lives and goes along to be happy (which is likely why it’s called a comedy) the story at the heart of everything is a tragedy. Prospero was the Duke of Milan. His brother stole it from him, basically sending him and his infant daughter, Miranda, out to sea to die. And they miraculously live. Even odder is the fact that this is Shakespeare’s final play or the final play that was published under his name. Perhaps that’s why there’s a sense of finality running through it. Yet, the plot it takes is also familiar. The whole play is of Prospero making his final act, his final piece of magic as an attempt to restore himself to the greatness he once had. Even the last lines of the play are this:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint. (Epilogue, lines 1-3)

[…] Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair,

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so that it assaults

Mercy itself and frees all faults.

As you come from crimes would pardoned be,

Let your indulgence set me free. (Epilogue, lines 13-20)

 

Technically it’s Prospero speaking, but doesn’t it sound so much like Shakespeare could be saying his last words? And that’s how this play lives on. His last, his final outreach to the public he tried to please his whole life.

I assigned Caidyn to read The Tempest because when I read it in the Shakespeare class I took in college, I thought it was beautiful. This opinion hasn’t changed either. Prospero’s monologues are beautifully written. I have very fond memories of the play and I wanted him to give it another try since he told me he wasn’t fond of it. I even wrote a sonnet based on the play, which was a class assignment, but I haven’t been able to write a sonnet since.

This is definitely an unusual play. I would divide it into three different plays, a comedy, a romance, and a political play. The tone switches throughout the play and it often shifts from iambic pentameter to prose. In the end, it all comes together and Prospero gives up his magic and power.

Unfortunately, and somewhat ironically, I didn’t enjoy the play as much this time around. I thought the political talk was tedious, the romance was quick as it happened over the course of hours, and the comedy fell flat for me. Now, I listened to this and read it at the same time. I believe Shakespeare is meant to be performed and it’s easier to follow if someone else is saying the lines. The most fascinating part of the play, for me, was Prospero. In the beginning, he is manipulative to everyone. From Ariel to Miranda to Caliban. At the end, he has let Miranda go and marry Ferdinand, he has released Ariel from servitude, and I’m not sure what happens to Caliban. Not only that but he gives up his magic, the source of all his power.

Like Caidyn, I see Prospero as a stand-in for Shakespeare himself. This was his last credited play, and the last lines of the play feel like a final bow. That’s a powerful thing, in my opinion, and I think it adds a layer to the play that you might not notice at first. This was his final play, incorporating every kind of play he ever wrote and wrapping it up by taking a bow. That’s what makes this play powerful for me. While I might not have enjoyed it as much as I did the first time, it is an important play and maybe the most personal of his works.

I do agree with Chantel, the heart of the story lies with Prospero and his journey. I never liked him, but I could appreciate him. He promoted slavery, manipulated every character up until the end, and on and on. It is definitely a final bow for Shakespeare. But, while I know we could each analyze Prospero for hours, what do you think about Caliban? I pictured him as a black man myself, and he was framed as rotten to his core and an attempted rapist as well. What do you think was Shakespeare’s point to that? This is way before the biological theories of criminality came into play, after all.

Prospero’s story frames the play and in the beginning, he goes from manipulative to having a change of heart. He has a redemption arc and I think that is why he is compelling. As for Caliban, he is portrayed by a black man in the movie by Julie Taymor and I think it’s interesting the way he is talked about throughout the play. He is seen as subhuman and it is often commented that his mother was a witch. He is seen as irredeemable because of his attempt to rape Miranda, but I do not believe Prospero is in the right by treating him as he did. I don’t know if I can speak to the point of his character, but it is interesting that he is portrayed by a black man and that it is even commented that his skin is dark. Which is a contrast to Othello who was a Moor and the tragic hero of the play. I’m not sure if that made any sense, but he is definitely portrayed as a savage, and I don’t know if that was a comment on natives or Africans or a criticism of slavery.

To me, Shakespeare is a racist. Being straight up honest about that one. He was racist. Othello was black. The “Moors”, last I checked, were considered black. They were Spanish Muslims — aka the people who used to rule Spain until, like 13th century — and I’m not sure how they were considered. But they were other for sure. Othello was demonized. Caliban was demonized because of his birth as someone non-European and then he had a deformity and the joyous Prospero manipulated him when he was kind to turn him further into what he became: A man who wanted a way out of his situation and attempted murder. I see his attempt to rape Miranda as a way to get back at Prospero.

I’m not sure on the history of the The Moors, but Othello is usually portrayed by a black actor. But I cannot deny that Shakespeare was racist. I think the treatment of Caliban is because of his skin color, just like Othello’s. It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s important to note. It is also important to note that Caliban was the one who exposed Prospero to magic and then it is used against him and he is made a slave. I think that you are right about Caliban wanting to get back at Prospero and Miranda is the way to do that. Then again, it just ends up being a way to make Caliban look worse. Further reinforcing the message that he is the way he is because of his skin color.

Othello is probably portrayed as black because our conception of what “dark” is has changed over the years. When I hear dark, I associate blackness. For Shakespearean times, it’s probably a bit different so that Arabic people, such as the Moorish people, were seen as dark as well. Caliban did do that. He gave Prospero magic and showed him how to survive, then he was enslaved because he was seen as “lesser” than Prospero and needed ruling. Whether that was due to his deformity or skin color, we really can’t be sure.

I think that is a good point, but I think the character is meant to be portrayed as non-white and was likely portrayed in that time with dark makeup. I do think that either way, Othello and Caliban are the “other”. They are different than everyone else around them and because of that they are treated differently. What were your thoughts on Ariel who was also enslaved and sent to do Prospero’s bidding even after he was promised freedom?

It sets up the us-versus-them mindset, one I’m very familiar with thanks to studying social psychology. Yet, I won’t get into that. Ariel was really cute to me. Probably because, just like Chantel, I listened to it and the guy who read him was just cute. I kept forgetting that he wasn’t The Little Mermaid. But, I found him interesting and Prospero sickened me with that. He used his power that he took through Ariel for setting him free from a tree. I mean, Prospero kept his promise. He did set Ariel free. But he was just a part of a political maneuver.

I think there is also a huge difference between Ariel and Caliban in that Caliban is commanded to do hard labor and take care of Prospero and Miranda while Ariel is sent off to do his political bidding like you said. Not to mention he frees Ariel when he is satisfied. They are both slaves, but in very different ways. I think that’s interesting as well when it comes to the topic of racism.

The difference between Caliban and Ariel remind me of the house slave versus yard slave, in a way.

I see Ariel as an indentured servant because he was able to gain his freedom whereas Caliban didn’t have the option, other than finding a new master.

I can see that as well. But, onto a slightly new topic, what about Miranda and Prospero? Or Miranda and Ferdinand? Those are interesting dynamics. Prospero manipulates her into loving the person he wants her to so he can get his kingdom back and then some. And how did Prospero even know that they were going to be on a ship so he could send the storm out?

So, I don’t blame anyone who says that Prospero’s relationship with Miranda is slightly creepy. I get it. She has never seen another man, other than Caliban, before and she falls in love with the first man she ever sees. In the movie because they change the gender of Prospero and it takes away that creepiness. So, I thought Miranda and Ferdinand was so instant that I didn’t really have time to process it. It reminded me of Romeo and Juliet without the death and tragedy. It was just a snap of the fingers and then they are running off to get married. With some manipulation and influence, of course. I think he’s more than willing to pawn off his daughter to get what he wants without any thought of her happiness. I think Prospero must’ve found out from Ariel, no?  

The change will also be interesting to have a woman enslaving Caliban rather than a man. But, an aside. Same! It felt a lot like other books I’ve read with insta-love. Two people suddenly in a place where they have never seen another person and boom. It’s just not realistic to me in some ways. Romeo and Juliet gets a bad wrap, but, man, they didn’t know each other for an hour and marry each other. They waited a full evening! …Not much of a difference, but oh well. Prospero is selfish. Let’s be honest with that.

It is the origin of YA! Just kidding, but seriously the insta-love would put any YA novel to shame. That being said, insta-love doesn’t exist. What exists between Ferdinand and Miranda is lust, hands down but that ends up getting Prospero what he wants in the end. By sheltering his daughter on a deserted island for her whole life, he was able to manipulate her completely. Even having Ariel put her to sleep so he could have a private talk with him. In some ways, his gesture in the end of getting rid of his magic means nothing because he still has power.

Okay, but Shakespeare writes better than most YA authors. No, it is just lust and it’s odd to me that he chose to stay on an island when he could have left, used magic to gain his crown back, and been done. It’s a very odd play. I still don’t think that it’s my favorite, but I appreciated it more. There were so many plot holes and odd occurrences that I can’t overlook it entirely, but I love reading it for Shakespeare writing how he might have perceived himself at the end of his life.

I will not deny that. He was one of the best writers in history. This play isn’t his best. It’s definitely no Macbeth or Hamlet or any of the others I still haven’t read. I didn’t find the side plots compelling and Prospero is indeed the most interesting part of the play. Whether Shakespeare meant him to be a stand-in for himself or not, it is interesting to think about. Also my favorite Shakespeare quote (from the plays I’ve read thus far) is in The Tempest.

We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep. (Act IV.1 Lines 156-158)

This is one of those hard to define plays. It’s probably one of the weirdest he wrote (or is credited to him). I’ve read all of his plays, from the great ones to the bad ones that have been analyzed and he likely only contributed a small portion to. But, Shakespeare is such an enigma and is an amazing author. He awes me at times.

 

The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud

The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co., #5)

(Caidyn)

5/5

Reviews for books one, two, three, and four.

While you look at that rating, maybe in some shock and maybe with a bland sense of knowing I’d do that, I want to say that this series isn’t perfect. There were many times when I absolutely raged in a bad way.

Me more than a few times.

 

This is now a general spoiler warning for the series. I will put extra spoiler warnings as well.

  • Holly and Lucy hate. Pissed me off to no end and it served no purpose for the third book. If the goal was to make Lucy leave, don’t add in extra drama to “throw us off” about why she left.
  • SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK. Holly’s sexuality has been toyed with from when she entered, with her being assumed straight for the sake of Lucy’s imagination running wild. Then, this book, it ends up with Holly telling Lucy that Lockwood isn’t her type and then saying she lives with a girl. Her roommate. Sounds like the past, doesn’t it? Oh, no, not gay. They’re roommates. It felt really tacked on since this is a super straight book (aka no queer characters). I’m going to steal a text Chantel sent me when I was talking about this to her: “It should be normalized, not hinted at.”
  • Sort of spoilers for the series, but I’m not going into a huge amount of depth. I really wish that the overarching plot had been woven into the other books better. Now, it didn’t feel forced, but it also felt like it could have been incorporated just a bit more. I liked the plot in this book, yet it also felt odd.
  • DEFINITELY SPOILERS FOR THE LAST FEW PAGES. Lucy and Lockwood deserved more. I mean, it was super cute, that ending. Him giving her his mother’s necklace and then walking away with her chasing after him, but I really needed a bit more since I’ve waited five books for them to get together and it wasn’t even in the book.

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Spoilers over now!

But, this book hit me in the feels. Chantel got quite a few texts from me while I was reading the last few parts of the book. Characters dead, not dead, maybe dead. A constant shift of mortal peril. (Imagine Mrs. Weasley’s clock.) I also take melatonin before I sleep, which I did around 8PM like usual so I’m asleep in, give or take, an hour. I’m old. Shush. But, 10:30 rolled around and still up and all that. Also, there were tears. There were tears a few times.

Since I can’t talk about the plot without giving major spoilers for the last books, all I can say is that this was a bittersweet and hopeful ending. The last part is titled The Beginning. It’s a new chapter for Lockwood & Co. in many ways. So, I really hope that Jonathan Stroud will see this and agree with me that he should totally write a short story collection or a few novellas about the characters and some of their new adventures. I love this group, honestly, and I would want to see them navigate life now that they did this and gave me a satisfying ending.